HL Deb 31 March 1971 vol 316 cc1409-43

6.43 p.m.

VISCOUNT MONCKTON OF BRENCHLEY rose to ask Her Majesty's Government whether they think it feasible to provide any form of religious education asked for by the parents of children in primary schools. The noble Viscount said: My Lords, before starting a short speech on the Question which I have put down, I should declare an interest. I am a Roman Catholic, but I am not speaking on behalf of the Catholic Church in this country. Indeed, I think that much of what I am going to say will be, and would have been, disagreed with by the hierarchy of the Catholic Church in England.

I imagine that the 1944 Act is coming up for review and change, and it is therefore right that we should question some of its provisions and see how it has worked in general in the religious education of our State schools. At the moment, the State schools work side by side with the grant-aided denominational schools, and in my opinion there is no question that there should be any change in the denominational schools. They must go on. They are happy, the religions that back them are happy and the system works well. What I am proposing we should look at to-night is religious education in the State primary schools in particular.

Under the 1944 Act, a right of access is given to teach denominational religions inside secondary schools, if the parents of the children so desire. It also allows children to opt out for any reason from a religious class, which I think is statutorily one class a week. It is in that context that we ought to consider this subject. The system works well for the majority, but does it work so very well? We now have a pluralist society. We have had for a long time a large Jewish population, a large Catholic population, a large immigrant population from Ireland, and now we have Moslems, Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists. If we are a Christian and a tolerant nation, do they not have a right to have their own religion taught to their own people in State schools, and a right of access to them if the parents so desire? Of course one accepts that when they opt to come to Britain they are opting to come to a country which is basically, historically and still nominally Christian, and that therefore they must learn something about the basic history of this country which is founded on Christianity. But, in addition to that, I should have thought they had a right to have their own religion taught.

If we look around at the products of the existing scheme, at those who have just come out of school, can we say that the scheme has worked? Have they a firm belief in a religion of any sort? Does sex before marriage indicate a strong religious belief? Does the increase in witchcraft, the digging up of graves, the wrong sort of spiritualism, indicate that religion has got through to the people being taught? It indicates to me that there is an overwhelming desire for some form of religion. The very fact of going in for witchcraft or strange by-paths of spiritualism shows that this desire for religion exists. It is how it is taught and how it is getting through that are going wrong.

We have at present cases of masters, and mistresses I suppose, teaching religion in secondary schools who do not believe a word they are saying. But religion has to be taught by Statute. This seems an appalling situation for the teachers and even fatal for the children who are taught by those teachers. One cannot help looking back at St. James's letter in the Gospels, which starts off: Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, for ye know that we who teach shall be judged with greater severity. So is it not better that those who are convinced of the religion which they want to teach should go in to visit those schools as of right, and with the agreement of the headmaster, to teach a recognised Christian denominational religion or a recognised major religion to the children of parents who want it?

It should be yet another clear choice of the parents. When a child becomes 16, or whatever the school leaving age may be, it is then the child's choice and is no longer the choice of the parents. But up until then I should have thought it was the parents' choice and even their right. One could even go so far as to ask: if the parents want their child to be taught to be a Humanist, should he not be so taught? It is the parents' right to decide the education of their children. Some of the secondary schools allow access for teaching—and I have had letters from headmasters and directors of education saying that the system works very well—during the normal school period, but in an empty form room. They take 8, 10 or 12 of a certain denomination out of the class and teach them. But some secondary schools allow this education only at 4 o'clock, and I do not need to remind your Lordships that everybody else is by then on his way home. It takes a brave child, almost a strange child, to stay behind for that religious education when everybody else is on the way home.

What are we really wanting to get across? Whatever religion we hold, some form of ethical teaching is obviously necessary for children. All of us—Humanists, Christians and other major religions—will probably agree about that. If one is a Christian, one wants to get across the key to our religion, which is love. This is now so difficult because, strangely enough, sexual love is compulsory education. They have to listen to that, and they have to see the films on that one small part of love—the sexual act. Unfortunately, in English we have only this one word "love" to cover what in Greek has four words. As Christians, I should have thought that, above all, we love our neighbour, because by doing that we obey the Commandment to love God. That is the major object in the teaching of our religion—the fairly simple one of loving one's nighbour. But it also means to be tolerant of those who have other religions, and also to be tolerant of those who have none. That is what I hope will now be looked at.

Too many of the young who have apparently been taught religion and have not accepted it never smile. I wonder whether your Lordships have noticed this, going around—how few of those who have come out of school smile. They do not appear to be happy. Compare that with the story, which is true, of a 15-year old Spanish boy, about ten years ago, dying in the presence of his parents and brothers. Everybody was very sad—it was a most ghastly thing—but he turned round just before he died and said, "See you later, father". His was quite a different attitude: the certainty that he had, and the happiness that he therefore had, of the transient nature of our life and the certainty of the future somewhere else.

I have said, my Lords, that we want some ethical teaching. Then we want some teaching on Christianity, which can be opted out of to go for a doctrinal teaching of another denomination or another major religion—at the choice of the parents, I would suggest. We want to teach to all compassion; not giving sympathy to, but suffering with. I do not want to quote, but I will quote, Miss Cilia Black. She says she is convinced in her own faith and religion but that she wants her child, aged nought, to choose for itself when it grows up. He will line up the major faiths and choose. You cannot do that. If you remember the cloud of unknowing, one can only desire what is known. If you place a child to grow up on a desert island, he will probably start worshipping the sun, the wind, the water or the fire. You can only desire what is known. Therefore your religion must be taught; and whether you get faith in addition depends, I suppose, on God. But the doctrinal faith must be taught.

We need committed teachers to do this. We need, probably, teachers, catechists, from all these faiths who are prepared to go in, and it is for consideration whether they should not be paid to go in, because they ought to be inspected—I do not quite know how, but examined, perhaps, by Her Majesty's Inspectors—to see that they are capable of teaching. Not all priests and religious are capable of teaching a religion properly. Often lay people, and ladies who have had their families and will go back to teaching, are better qualified to do it and better suited to do it; but it is for consideration whether they should not be paid on a per capita basis, on the basis of the numbers of that religion in that particular school.

So, my Lords, really, a new look at the Act is wanted; a new look in relation to the immigrants which have come to this country and have a right to their own religious teaching, though they should learn about the basic religion of this country. Above all, we should have a look at what is going on and what should go on in the primary schools. I hope that the Government will therefore be able at least to say that another look will be taken. I hope that we shall hear some interesting views from other noble Lords. We are all fallible, but I think most of us who are speaking, or are going to speak, realise that man is not supreme.

6.55 p.m.


My Lords, we shall all be grateful to the noble Viscount, Lord Monckton of Brenchley, for having tabled this Question. It is very timely, and it gives us an oppor tunity to discuss a number of issues. The Question itself, not being a simple one, prompts a good many more questions which, because of the explosive nature of the subject—and I think we ought to recognise that it is a highly explosive subject—ought to be approached with as much care as we can muster, if not, indeed, caution. I would just say this with regard to what the noble Viscount has said about making available in primary schools the opportunity for doctrinal teaching of all kinds: that I should not like to be responsible for organising the primary school. I should think that, as a matter of practical administration, having in mind the size of our primary schools generally, this idea is not a starter.

Certainly, my Lords, if the discussion is to be fruitful we shall need a minimum of prejudice and a maximum of tolerance, and I think our aim must be to establish whatever common ground we can discover—and it is perhaps in the atmosphere which so often prevails in this House that this can best be attempted. At the outset, I should like to remind your Lordships of what the White Paper of 1943 said about religious education in schools. I quote: There has been a very general wish, not confined to representatives of the Churches, that religious education should be given a more defined place in the life and work of the schools, springing from a desire to revive the spiritual and personal values in our society and in our national traditions. We know that because of the 1944 Education Act, which provided that each school day would begin with a corporate act of worship and that there would be regular religious instruction on a locally agreed syllabus, the Church of England surrendered control of many parochial schools. We also know that, as a result of that Act, religious education is the only subject which the law requires to be taught, and is the only subject from which both child and teacher may be excused.

It seems particularly fitting that we are discussing this Question to-night, because a quarter of a century later it is reasonable, I think, that we should be attempting some assessment of the success which has been achieved in realising the desire to which I have referred as set out in the 1943 White Paper. So one asks—and here I shall use more general terms than did the noble Viscount—are the moral values, the personal values or the spiritual values of our society such as to warrant complacency? Although many of us would testify to the excellent quality of many of our young people, we see little reason for complacency, and much to cause us concern; and if we have cause for concern at all, surely there is a case for consideration to see what, if any, changes are desirable in this particular field of education. If, on the other hand, we have achieved all that can be hoped for, then there is good reason to say, "Leave well alone"—but only then.

My Lords, we all know that young people of to-day face tremendous challenges and are subjected to very great pressures. They question the standards and the values of older generations, and I think it is right that they should do so. They reject much of the moral code that those of us who are older absorbed in our more formative years. They are more open in their ways of living, but they are not always as wise as they seem to think they are. But yet, if they appear to be stumbling and sometimes misguided, I think a great deal of the fault lies with us who are older, in that we have not succeeded in helping them to appreciate that man has within him the power to overcome his inherent weaknesses.

As I see it, our challenge lies in providing for them the experience of making decisions, for every decision made is a choice between what seems right and what seems wrong. School is a good place to learn this, for school is the place where the making of decisions can be practised: where the individual learns that he has a choice, a choice between what is good and what is bad, or perhaps not quite as good. There are changes in our schools that could not possibly have been foreseen in 1944. The noble Viscount has already referred to the fact that we have sizeable groups of Hindus, Sikhs and Moslems. There is another fact of which we ought to take notice; and that is that we also have in some of our local authority schools sizeable groups of Roman Catholic and Jewish children.

The noble Viscount touched on opting out. I have myself referred to the fact that the 1944 Act provides this possibility. I think that few of us to-day would regard opting out as being in the best interests of a young child, since it tends to make the child feel different. One cannot expect a child of primary school age to begin to understand what it is all about. In this connection, may I say that I speak as one who when young was a martyr to my father's heroism in the matter of being called to put into operation at school what he thought was right. I do not regret that he did it; I learned a great deal as a result. I was of primary school age. I would not commend it as an operation that ought to be inflicted on any child having been through it myself.

Rather than speak at length of what I myself feel about the matter, I want to touch on what some others have placed on record. First, the National Union of Teachers. In their pamphlet, Into the Seventies, issued in September, 1969 (and I think that they submitted the document as evidence to the British Council of Churches), they suggested two changes in the 1944 settlement. They asked that the act of corporate worship should no longer necessarily have to take place at the beginning of the day: they wanted flexibility, and sought changes in the agreed syllabus. As they put it: This syllabus which is compulsory by law has always presented difficulties. In some areas it is regularly revised but in others it has become ossified with time and is a severe handicap to vital teaching. In any case a syllabus imposed upon a school from outside is contrary to the whole tradition of British education. The requests of the National Union of Teachers strike me as being modest, but they ought not, just because they are modest, to be discounted. What bothers me is that, unless notice is taken of this sort of criticism, somebody somewhere, some school in some place, feels driven to take an initiative. This is what may have happened, as I understand it, at Countesthorpe in the county of Leicestershire; and I am not sure that that is the way progress ought to be made in this field.

Then I would mention the Plowden Report. In paragraph 562, it asks: Is the very notion of an agreed syllabus compatible with the flexibility of the modern primary school? In paragraph 573, it comments: There is urgent need for reconsideration and re-appraisal of what aspects of religious faith can be appropriately presented to children, at what time and in what way. The Plowden Report mentioned the dangers of introducing the more difficult stories to children at too early an age and warned that they may reject religious ideas as their critical faculties develop, and, at the same time, the morality which they associate with them. In preparation for this debate I have re-read with great interest what six members of the Plowden Committee set out in their Note of Reservation in regard to the inculcation of moral, social and æsthetic values in school: and I think the time has come when we need to face squarely the risk we run if moral education is based an any particular faith; for if the faith be rejected the moral values associated with it may be discarded also. To put it somewhat crudely: the baby thrown out with the bath water.

Next, I should like to refer to a recent report, Moral and Religious Education in County Schools, submitted by a Working Party to the Social Morality Council. I myself have benefited tremendously from reading this report. The Social Morality Council includes three Members of your Lordships' House: Lord Ritchie-Calder, Lord Soper and the right reverend prelate, the Bishop of Durham. It has Anglicans, Roman Catholics, Free Churchmen, Jews and Humanists working together to promote morality in all aspects of the life of the community. The report states: Some of the provisions of the 1944 Act have become irrelevant to the present position in our county schools. It asks for a more open approach in religious education, and it goes on to say that it welcomes the systematic attention based on research and experiment which is now being given to moral education; and hopes that this initiative will lead to far-reaching changes. My Lords, it seems to me—and certainly the noble Viscount, Lord Monckton of Brenchley, made clear that it is his view—that the time is right for consideration of what changes are desirable. For some change would appear to be supported by a fairly substantial body of thoughtful opinion. I do not think it is the duty of a local authority school to indoctrinate, but rather is it a duty to help the growing child to learn to distinguish between right and wrong; to acquire a sense of judgment; to discover where to find and how to use knowledge; to help in building a world community of peoples and to develop a sense of responsibility as a citizen of that community.

I rather think that those who wish their children to follow any particular faith would do well to seek to persuade by example, and beyond this there remains, and I think will remain, a continuing opportunity to the Churches to meet the challenge that inevitably faces them. I like some words written by the right reverend Bishop Butler, Roman Catholic Auxiliary Bishop of Westminster—indeed, they are included in this document. He wrote: No one can doubt the urgent need for men and women, of all faiths and none, to find common ground from which to face the vast moral issues of our time: world poverty, international peace, race relations, control of the environment. I think it right and proper that in our schools we should teach children something of all the great religions of the world. If in our schools we can help young people towards the solution of the problems to which reference has already been made, we shall, I think, have served them well. And what they have to do, as we have, is to seek to find common ground with other peoples. In our primary schools we need to offer as fully as we can opportunity to acquire a set of moral values that will help them in that search.

My Lords, in the context of the world as it is to-day, and the context of the world as we can see it shaping, the children of to-day face tremendous challenges. I believe that by a right approach, beginning in our primary schools and carrying on through our secondary schools this notion of training them to discover the difference, or to determine the difference, between what is right and what is wrong; by doing what we can to give them a high set of moral values, giving them an understanding of the needs of their fellows and encouraging them to work as members of a world community, we shall be making a constructive and useful approach.

7.10 p.m.


My Lords, the Question which the noble Viscount is asking Her Majesty's Government has to do with feasibility, and we all know that what are called "feasibility studies" are one of the exercises most in vogue amongst administrators at the present time. While I am confident that no one in the Church of England who has any concern for its continuing share in the work of national education would wish to impede any feasibility study such as that which the noble Viscount is asking for, I am equally sure that they would wish to see maintained the consensus of opinion achieved in 1944 for the religious clauses of the Butler Act.

They would, of course, be among the first to recognise that after a quarter of a century some modification of those clauses will be called for in any new Act, and indeed a very substantial Report on religious education, entitled The Fourth R produced over the name of my right reverend friend the Bishop of Durham, is a contribution to the fresh thinking that the situation in 1971 undoubtedly demands. But I would hope that any changes would, like those made in 1944, be changes that are agreed after consultation with the teaching profession, with the local authorities and with all the Churches. The very much closer bonds which to-day unite the Churches in what the B.B.C. calls "the mainstream of Christian tradition" in this country encourages one to believe that there would be found to be a very wide measure of agreement among them, both on what should be the content of religious education and also on the provision that ought to be made for those of other faiths.

My Lords, the only provision in the law at the moment for religious education to be provided in accordance with the wishes of parents is that which is made for voluntary controlled schools—a status established in 1944 to meet the difficulties of church schools which needed building improvements for which the managers were unable to pay. The control of such schools passes largely to the local education authority, but the purposes of the original founders of the schools are acknowledged in the arrangements that are made for religious education. Thus, an act of worship can be in accordance with the trust deed of the school and parents have the right to request that their children may receive religious instruction in accordance with the foundation of the school, be it Anglican, Roman or Free Church. The managers of a controlled school in any normal situation are under obligation to provide such instruction, and for this they may appoint what are called "reserved teachers" qualified to give the kind of religious instruction needed.

It is not without significance for our present discussion to note that the Roman Catholic Church has never taken advantage of the voluntary controlled status for schools, preferring to put all its resources into schools where denominational teaching is integrated into the total educational life of the school. There are many members of the Church of England who hold the same view. So what the noble Viscount is in fact asking for is an extension to county schools of the right to appoint reserved teachers for religious instruction.

I feel bound to say that I think this raises a number of very real difficulties. For example, where numbers are small there is a danger of lapsing back to the all-age teaching which it was one of the objects of the 1944 Act to abolish. One's mind boggles at the problems of accommodation and of the recruitment of part-time teachers of the quality of which the noble Lord spoke that would be involved in providing for all the numerous groups that might be called for in, say, a large comprehensive school.

My Lords, such practical difficulties, serious though they would be, could no doubt be overcome by good will where there was a conviction amongst parents and teachers that such arrangements would provide better education. But would that be the case? I doubt whether the authors of the Durham Report on religious education would think so. They say in paragraph 20 of their Report: All major educational reports in recent years have made it plain that the principal argument for religious education in county schools is that it is a subject with its own inherent educational value and must have its place in the curriculum for educational reasons. I take that to mean that the teaching of this subject must contribute to, and in no way disrupt, such promising educational developments as the thematic teaching method or the development known in primary schools as the integrated day".

In the first of these children are given an introduction to those basic experiences of life which are used as the symbolic language of religion; and in the second, the integrated day, there are no subject divisions as such at all, and the experiences which the children have are examined in different contexts or perspectives, including the religious. I question whether a peripatetic teacher of religion could easily share in such an experiment, and I should be fearful lest such teachers would fail to be identified with the corporate life of a school, and that they might even become a cause of dissension among the full-time teaching staff.

My Lords, ever since schools were built out of public money, a century ago, it has been a cardinal principle that in such schools, now known as county schools, no religious catechism or religious formula which is distinctive of any particular denomination shall be taught. This principle, established by the Couper-Temple clause in the 1870 Act, survived all the sectarian controversies of the 19th century and formed part of the 1944 Act—that Act which made such an immense contribution to the unity of purpose among men of good will concerned with the religious education of the young. In all the evidence collected by the Durham Commission, much of which is published in an Appendix to the Report, no Church and no body of teachers suggested that it would be a good thing to depart from the terms of the Couper-Temple clause. I believe that behind this there lies a deep concern for a school to live as a single united community; and an equal concern that the home should take its rightful place in the upbringing of children.

My Lords, I speak from these Benches for those who share the noble Viscount's deep concern for religious education; and I speak also as a near neighbour of his in Kent who knows and admires his passionate concern for Christian unity. He will, I am sure, understand if I say that I hope that whatever Her Majesty's Government may consider feasible for the provision of religious education in the years ahead, it will be such as will have the widest possible support from parents, teachers and education authorities, and from all the Curches; and that such support will be given for sound and respected educational reasons.

7.22 p.m.


My Lords, I too, am very grateful to the noble Viscount, Lord Monckton of Brenchley, for having asked this Question and for turning our minds to-night to a problem which, in its particular bearing on the primary schools, has possibly not been thought about quite enough. Before I turn to that subject perhaps I may take up one point which the noble Viscount made. This would be an opportunity for the noble Lord who is to reply for the Government to tell us whether the noble Viscount is right in his assumption that the 1944 Act is due for overhaul; or whether we are rather to believe The Times Educational Supplement and that his right honourable friend regards herself more than anything else as the guardian of the 1944 Act. I had rather hoped that we education specialists were going to have an easier time under this Government than we had under the last one.

The whole problem of teaching religion is a very difficult one about which people have very definite, distinctive and differing ideas. I think it is even more difficult in the primary school than in the secondary school. I would agree with the noble Viscount that what we want to see is some form of ethical teaching at primary school level. I think this could be of a fairly simple nature. I agree with him also that we want to see that the teaching of religion is about religion. I think he would agree that we do not necessarily want to see indoctrination, but we want people to know about the religion or religions that their particular culture stems from and which their families may, or may not, have had; particularly the Christian culture in which this country is still steeped. We want them to know more about it and more about the experiences. I think this can be done within the context of the teaching experiment that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Rochester spoke about. It is done at the moment in a great many schools, I believe, without its being necessary to take the steps which are being more or less advocated by the noble Viscount.

I would agree with the right reverend Prelate that it is extremely important that we keep a unity of spirit in the schools, more particularly in the sphere of religion. At the primary level, rather than separating out people of different sects and different religions, they should be brought together and taught more about each other's faiths. Simple stories about religion are very suitable for primary education. There should be simple stories about other religions, particularly where there are a large number of children of religions other than the Christian religion.

I was sorry that the Durham Report came out against the idea of assemblies built on a multiplicity of faiths. I do not wish to be misunderstood. I am not in any way advocating a kind of colour-less philosophical mish-mash—putting everything together—which results in having absolutely nothing at the end. But I suggest that in the teaching of religion in schools, especially perhaps in primary schools, there should be a foundation of tolerance, and an appreciation of the richness of the various faiths and cultures represented in this country which this proposal might not help.

In the various discussions that we have had from time to time about racial problems in this country, and about immigration, one thing has been almost entirely ignored; that is, the great cultural richness imported by our immigrant population, from which I believe this country will benefit in future years. We have not yet even begun to appreciate the value that we shall get from this. I think it can also be rewarding in the religious sphere. It may be very good for us that, among other things, we should note that the immigrant population in this country is a great deal more religious-minded than most of the native-born inhabitants. In conclusion, I would say that I do not see the way ahead along the lines the noble Viscount has suggested. But I think we ought to thank him most sincerely for having raised this Question and having, perhaps, started chains of thought about how we can best deal with the problem of religious education in a pluralist and multiracial society.

7.29 p.m.


My Lords, I much appreciate being able to join in the debate led by the noble Viscount, Lord Monckton of Brenchley, but I do so with some reluctance, because I am out of date. For ten years or more I was the nominee of the Roman Catholic hierarchy on the National Council Advisory Committee on Education in England. It was not until I had been there for several years that I discovered that the hierarchy of the Church which had nominated me lived in the most harmonious day-to-day relations with the Ministry, had no need of my help, never sent me a brief, and presently forgot my existence; and when I retired, did not notice it. I think it most likely that the hierarchy is still on the excellent terms with the Ministry that it was when I unobtrusively left my post. And I do not think that I can add very much in a conference like this, except to comment a little on the noble Viscount's lead.

I thought that he was telling us that there are three kinds of religious education involved. Those Churches which have denominational schools, like the Church to which we both belong, give religious education in the manner they wish; but they have a great many of their children in schools which are State schools, and I thought the noble Viscount said, and I believe it to be correct, that in secondary schools there is a right of entry of the representatives of denominations (the Roman Catholic, in my own case) by arrangement with the authorities of the school to impart specific instruction, which I understand in our case is something quite different from the broad aspirations of tolerance and understanding of other faiths. Our instruction is particular, and I hold that it must be so.

I have noticed that there are two principles for dealing with mixed gatherings of people with different religions. There is the Boy Scout principle, where every denomination is invited to worship in its own way, without any impairment of the unity in the Boy Scout movement. Then there is something more like the Y.M.C.A., which holds ceremonies of an inter-denominational or non-denominational character. I have always held that for everybody the soundest thing, pending universal unity, is to let people worship and teach their people as they wish, under denominational control. That does not mean, to my mind, impairing unity.

I do not wish to be anything but a Briton, and Britain is for the most part a Protestant country; it certainly is not a Catholic country. I like unity. I have enjoyed a splendid unity m my regiment, where there are few Catholics. Nevertheless, I still feel that denominational education is right. Some people have said: let children be taught other faiths. I have examined other faiths. I have been round the Holy City of Benares and talked to people there. I have talked to a man who had been twenty years a priest of my own faith and asked him if he understood what this religion was. He said that he had studied it for twenty years and he was only at the beginning. I do not think that we can inflict this on our children.

I have many Moslem friends—in a sense I can say that I have two or three million of them, but I correspond with one or two, with whom I am on excellent terms. I have one Moslem friend in Delhi who stays up on Christmas night to be in a sense in harmony with me, because it is the night on which Christ was born. I do not think that compassion, friendliness, good comradeship and unity require one to abandon denominational teaching.

When Roman Catholics go into a school, we go in for specific reasons. We teach about the Seven Deadly Sins. We tell the children of the seven Sacraments and we prepare them for the Sacrament of Confession and of Holy Communion. And we do it in a way which none but the Roman Catholic Church can do. It is not done in a spirit of animosity or of censorship of the Jew or Moslem or Hindu or the Protestant next door. It is the way we teach the difference between right and wrong, to which the noble Lord, Lord Garnsworthy, referred several times. I think that what the noble Viscount was suggesting was that whereas there is the right to go into secondary schools and impart specific instruction, there is no such right to go into elementary schools. If this is not so, no doubt the Minister who replies will indicate where I have misunderstood. The noble Viscount asked that what happens in the secondary schools should be extended in regard to primary schools.

He also asked that this right should be extended to every other religion and, I understood him to say, to non-religions, which I understand is ethics. There we get into tremendous difficulties. I do not see how this could be undertaken. Either we have a religion which exists or we impart a religion which we have invented, or we expose ourselves to a variety of other people claiming the right to impart instruction. While I could not agree more with the noble Viscount that parents should have the right to say what religion is imparted to their children and that in their older years that right should pass to the child, I do not see how this business of imparting ethics can be done. I think that instead of Aristotle we might find Scientology, or something of that kind, introduced, and we should have difficulty in excluding things about whose value in unifying the community we have great doubts.

However, perhaps the Minister will say whether he is in sympathy with the noble Viscount's proposal that religious denominations which at present have no right to enter primary schools and impart their specific instruction should be accorded either that right or an enablement which entitles them to negotiate with the schools in question. I do not think that in our case the duty to give instruction would be given to anybody but a nun or parish priest and they would give instruction in the seven Sacraments, and that is all. I apologise for intervening in this debate in a rather incompetent and out-of-date manner.

7.38 p.m.


My Lords, I, too, should like to thank my noble friend Lord Monckton of Brenchley for having raised this Question to-night, because it is one which urgently needs answering. It deals mainly with primary schools and that, to me, is of great importance, because I believe that if religious education is to be given at all, it must start when a child is very young. It need not be over-sectarian. It need be only of the most elementary, non-sectarian nature, but it should begin most definitely at an early age. Later on, when a child reaches the age of 16 or so he is able to choose for himself which sect he wishes to belong to. This is generally the same as that of his parents, although not always.

My noble friend raised the problem which exists to-day of the great number of children in our primary schools who are not even of a Christian faith. The problem of those who are practising Jews has, of course, always existed. It existed in the school where I taught for a time—Epsom College. We had two boys there who were allowed not to attend Chapel or receive normal religious education and who went to their own instructor outside. That seems to me to be the obvious way. They did not feel like the odd men out, but felt perfectly content with their own religion. One of them rose to be head of the school one year; and a very fine chap he was. One must remember that the Christian faith and the Jewish faith have a very close connection, one having, so to speak, emerged from the other, and there is not such a wide gap between us. But with faiths like the Moslem, the Buddhist, the Sikh, and others that have been mentioned this evening, the problem is rather different.

When a child is young, there is no doubt about who should say what form of religious instruction the child should have: it should be the parents. The child when very young is incapable of deciding for himself or herself. The child must receive guidance, and that should be guidance given by the parents. I see no reason why there should not be some arrangement for the teachers of these various faiths who are not admitted to school during periods of religious instruction to give their own particular group separate instruction. But I do not think the school should have to be responsible for it or have to organise it. Above all, the State should not have to pay for it. One must remember that these religious instructors have to be paid, and I do not think that that burden should fall on the local education authority. If the parents are anxious that their children should continue in the faith, then I think it is they who should pay for this outside instruction.

My noble friend Lord Monckton said that not all teachers are capable of giving good instruction in religion. I regret to say that that is only too true in every subject. There are bad teachers to be found everywhere, and in every subject. The problem, of course, with our ever-increasing numbers of schools, has always been to find really qualified staff. My noble friend mentioned also teaching in humanism. I am a little doubtful about this. I confess that I know absolutely nothing about humanism, but it has always struck me as being rather a euphemism for atheism: in other words, a belief in nothing. I do not think that a child either needs to be, or should be, taught to believe in nothing.


My Lords, perhaps the noble Lord would allow me to ask him a question. Since he made the point that parents should be able to choose, what does he think ought to happen to the child of a humanist when the humanist endeavours to exercise precisely the same right that the noble Lord is indicating other parents should enjoy?


In that case, if the parents are anxious that the child should receive no religious instruction at all, then I think their wishes should be observed. But the parents are quite capable of teaching the child humanism, and I do not think that the school should necessarily provide that instruction.


I do not want to labour the point, but are not the parents of the other children equally capable of teaching them?


No. The position is rather different, because the parents may not be fully qualified to teach in that way. The noble Lord, Lord Garns-worthy, mentioned the fact that the National Union of Teachers oppose corporate worship of any kind.


I must interrupt on a point of correction. I did not say that. If the noble Lord will read Hansard, he will see clearly that I did not.


I am sorry if I made a mistake; I must have misheard the noble Lord. This is something that I feel is necessary. Corporate worship need not be sectarian, and if any parents object to their child attending corporate worship, of course their wishes should be observed.

I was interested to hear the speech of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Rochester, particularly as an uncle of mine was one of his predecessors at Rochester. I agree entirely with everything that he said.

The noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, thought that instruction is more difficult in primary schools than in secondary schools. I do not think I agree with that, because instruction in primary schools is only on the very basic elements of Christianity: it does not go into the rather more complicated forms of sectarian instruction, or anything like that. I think that, on the whole, it is much easier to be inter-sectarian in a primary school than in a secondary school.

My noble friend Lord Lytton pointed out the difference between acceptance of another person's faith and friendship with the person who has that faith. I have had the same experience. One of the members of the Iran Parliament who came over here on a visit has been a firm friend of mine ever since, and one of the most touching experiences I have had was to receive a Christmas card from him two years ago. This shows that there need not be any barrier but that, on the other hand, there need be no acceptance of everything. You cannot accept the truth of every faith under the sun; you must have your own convictions. Nevertheless, tolerance of others and respect for their views is essential. I feel that the question of religious education of the very young is of vital importance, and therefore I sincerely hope that what my noble friend and others have said tonight will be taken note of.

7.49 p.m.


My Lords, I, too, am indebted, as I am sure everybody in the House is, to the noble Viscount, Lord Monckton of Brenchley, for having introduced this subject. It is an extremely important subject, and I am only sorry that I am intervening at such a late hour and consequently feel that I must confine my remarks within as short a space as I can. I appreciate, as does every sane human being, that it is highly essential that there should be an understanding between the various religious denominations and of the various religious ideals, and that there should be respect for the susceptibilities of people who belong to different denominations and different religions.

I speak of course as a Jew. My coreligionists have for centuries regarded religious education as being something of vital importance to the up-building of the morals and the understanding of the members of our particular religion. The name which was used for a synagogue was often shool which really meant a school. The synagogue itself was considered to be a place in which education would be encouraged and developed. I am strongly of the opinion that what has kept the Jewish community together throughout the ages is the religious education which people from the youngest age upwards received, and the parental control and guidance that they received. Consequently I feel—and I cannot speak, obviously, on behalf of all my coreligionists but of the vast majority—that what was provided in the 1944 Act granting possibilities to pupils of various religious sections to have their own particular religious training was an extremely important provision. I also feel that we are indebted to most of the heads of the secondary schools for the manner in which they have regarded the importance of that provision and have acted during the years that have intervened.

So I come again to the same conclusion as the noble Lord, Lord Somers, and others, who have expressed themselves in respect of this opportunity for religious training to be given starting right from the primary school. I would go further. I would say that in places where a community are prepared to provide denominational nursery schools some kind of assistance should be given by the State to the denomination concerned. It seems to me that by understanding one's own religion, provided that it is a civilised religion (and most of them are), one develops an understanding for religions of another denomination or kind. A child is brought up with certain religious ideas at home. The noble Lord, Lord Somers, has said that perhaps the parents are not sufficiently able to inculcate into the child the ideas and ideals which lie behind their religious point of view. But there is no doubt at all that the home is the basis of the education of the child and its future. Consequently, when the child goes to a school it should have the opportunity of being taught to understand what the religion of its home really means.

I do not want to delay the House longer than I can help, but there are one or two things I should like to comment upon that might be considered by the Government when they prepare a new Education Act. I have said already that county primary schools should offer the same right of entry as is currently provided under the 1944 Act for county secondary schools, to enable denominational teachers or ministers of religion to give denominational instruction on school premises. I would say, too, as was indicated in a memorandum of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, which is the representative body of British Jewry, that where colleges of further education or sixth form colleges are providing all-day courses for senior pupils from county secondary schools, the same provision for denominational religious education should be applicable and available as in the secondary schools themselves.

There are some suggestions (though it is too late this evening to deal with them in detail) that fresh arrangements might be made in so far as denominational schools are concerned whereby, instead of regarding the approach in the way that it is at present in areas where there is a large section of people of a particular religious denomination, several councils, rather than one particular council, should have the right, or should be authorised, to deal from a financial point of view with the provision of facilities for a denominational school. These are matters of administration, which one hopes to have an opportunity of discussing when proposals are made for amending the present Act.

My Lords, I conclude with this thought. The proper upbringing of a child in its own religious beliefs is something which places that child on the proper path of conduct for its life. I say with a considerable amount of pride that it has proved in my own community that it has succeeded in preventing a considerable amount of juvenile delinquency. It is the religious basis and the Jewish home that has produced this result. Whatever provision we can make to enable the child—of whatever denomination he may be—to be brought up and to understand his own religion is all for the good. The matter is of particular importance now that we have the new immigration population in the country; and they too, I am quite sure, would want similar opportunities.

7.59 p.m.


My Lords, like other noble Lords who have spoken, I should like to apologise for detaining your Lordships so late to-night. I should like to express my appreciation to the noble Viscount who has introduced this subject. I am sure that, while only a small number of your Lordships have been present, he must have been encouraged by the fact that this subject has stimulated a good deal of interesting comment and wise words. I hope it will not be considered irrelevant if what I have to say refers specifically to my experience in local authority North of the Border. I can assure your Lordships that, while the question of religious instruction does not cause a great deal of excitement in your Lordships' House, it is in the City of Glasgow, and in the forthcoming municipal elections, probably the most vital issue which will be debated, for reasons which I will explain. But I am appreciative of the fact that this subject has been introduced to the House at this stage because it enables me to dwell on some of these points.

I hope that the noble Lord who is to reply will not feel inhibited by the fact that this matter is dealt with in a separate Act for Scotland from that which has been mentioned in the debate to-day. I would hope that the wise and tolerant words that have been spoken in this debate were said more loudly in the rather turbulent and violent city where I live, because the question of religious instruction in school is a major divisive element in our community. The fact is that in the City of Glasgow we have a very large immigrant population of Pakistani children, and we have a substantial Jewish community. It is predominantly a Protestant city; but there is provision for separate education for Roman Catholic children. This provision is jealously guarded by the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church. I would hope that the spirit of unity which has been preached here to-day, and the great and increasing interest in ecumenical relations between the Churches, were accepted to a greater extent in Glasgow. The insistence on separate schools for Roman Catholic children, as against all the other children who are able to be educated in the other council schools, is, as I say, an important divisive element in our community. Children at a very early age develop allegiances to groups which run right through the whole of the community. A good deal of the violence in our city can be attributed to the fact that the community in itself is a divided community from the beginning.

In addition, the fact that there are separate schools, and the number of teachers available for Roman Catholic schools is limited, means that the opportunities for reasonable education for Roman Catholic children are much diminished. I think in my own county it is estimated that the ratio of Roman Catholic teachers to Protestant teachers is something like one to nine; and most Roman Catholic children who are seeking secondary education are not given the same educational opportunities as Protestant children because the facilities are not there; the teachers are not there. It has been said in fact by some representatives of the Church that this is of lesser importance than the separateness of the schools.

I have been much encouraged by what I have heard in this House to-night from the noble Viscount and the noble Earl who spoke from the Cross-Benches, of their desire to see a unity in the approach to this problem. I would hope that this sense of tolerance and unity and understanding of each other's faiths, and respect for each other's faiths, would be accepted on a wider scale. I say this because I appreciate to the full, and subscribe to the full to, the concern of the noble Viscount who introduced this discussion—his concern that our children should be made increasingly aware of the great moral teachings which belong to the Christian faith. I subscribe to that completely. But I do not think it best serves either the education of children, or the unity which in fact embraces the Christian faith, if this continued insistence on separateness is demanded.


My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving way, but I have a little experience at the back of my mind of many years ago of running a working boys' club in South-East London in a Catholic community. I was unaware of the divisiveness of which the noble Lord speaks as an integral part of denominational education which exists there. I thought everybody was on very good terms. I am asking whether there is something peculiar about Glasgow, as we all know there is about Belfast.


My Lords, I think there is something peculiar about Glasgow. I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord O'Neill of the Maine, is not present in our House to-night for he would probably tell you that the same disease exists in Belfast with disastrous results. I think the separateness of schoolchildren at an early stage, separated into the respective religious communities, is a bad thing and a divisive thing. I say that, not because I am against religious instructions in schools at all. I am a Christian, I hope a practising Christian, with all my limitations. But I do feel that it does not serve the purpose of the advancement of religious thought and tolerance to continue to insist on the kind of conditions which I have described.

8.7 p.m.


My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, said that it had been his impression that there might be a rather more lazy time in educational circumstances to-day. I assure the noble Lord that the resources which have so far been gained by my right honourable friend for the school building programme are nit going to give some people whose work lies with the Department of Education and Science a particularly lazy time, and I shall be delighted if that attitude to education rubs off on your Lordships in your Lordships' House. The noble Lord also asked if I would give him a reply about the 1944 Act. Of course we are this evening dealing with a part, a most important part, of the 1944 Act, and I hope that in the very brief time available to me I shall be able to indicate to your Lordships how Her Majesty's Government feel about this part of the Act. But as regards the rest of that great measure, it is not possible for me to give a reply to the noble Lord this evening, although of course I am at the noble Lord's disposal if he cares to put down a Question at any other time.

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Viscount, Lord Monckton of Brenchley, for drawing attention to the importance of religious and moral education this evening, and also for the preparation of a Paper which the noble Viscount kindly allowed me to have, which contains at any rate some of the opinions which he put to your Lordships this evening. I am sure the House would agree with the objectives for religious education in the final paragraph of that Paper. I quote: It must comprehend and respect all classes and races, all types of religious belief and non-belief whilst assisting students to view others with tolerance and understanding. It must be a system dedicated to respecting individual integrity whilst assisting all to live in a single community. Certainly on behalf of Her Majesty's Government I would say we are agreed about basic needs and objectives. But I am very doubtful whether the detailed proposals put forward by the noble Viscount are administratively practicable or perhaps in line with current developments in religious education, and indeed in primary education in general.

In 1944 the teacher was seen largely as an instructor or as a giver of information, and this information was often divided into separate entries on the timetable. It was the Plowden Report which showed us that increasingly the teacher seeks to stimulate learning, while separate subjects have been merged into the "integrated day". I think I can rest on the authority of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Rochester when I hold that teachers have felt more and more that religious education, which has natural links with every subject in the curriculum, should not remain isolated from this process. The House may be interested to hear that a recent survey carried out by Her Majesty's Inspectors, but not yet published, shows that in infants and first schools where religious education was regarded by the H.M.I.s as being well taught, it was rare to find it separately timetabled, and that there was a similar pattern in about half the junior schools which were in the survey sample.

My doubts are reinforced by the development of religious education within the framework of the 1944 Act and within the curriculum framework which I have sought to outline in these few words. The noble Lord, Lord Garnsworthy, may be interested when I say that the past five years have seen the increasingly rapid adoption by local education authorities, through normal legal procedure and led by the largest—the West Riding, London and Lancashire—of syllabuses of a rather new type which take into account the findings of research and the new situation in schools. The evidence is that they are already having many of the beneficial effects to which the noble Viscount referred in his speech, and these new syllabuses are making greater demands on the professional skill and freedom of the teacher.

Research in moral or, to use the words of the Paper which the noble Viscount kindly let me have, "ethical" education—an expression which has been used by other noble Lords—is currently being carried out at Oxford, where the Farmington Trust is carrying out a long-term project into the philosophical basis of moral action and education, and the Schools Council has a project on school methods. Important work has also been done at colleges of education at Exeter and Nottingham. This work leads to conclusions similar to those which I have put to your Lordships in connection with religious education: that moral education is something which cannot be isolated; it is a matter of obtaining acceptance of standards by pupils. It is inescapably the concern of teachers, and on this last ground alone I feel that a separate programme of ethical education could be looked upon as a retrograde step.

I would go further, and say that the adoption of a system of separate programmes of religious and ethical instruction would really involve much closer central control of the curriculum than has been acceptable in this country in the past. I bear in mind the remarks which the noble Lord, Lord Garnsworthy, put to me from the other side of the House. Even the agreed syllabus system which represents the closest control ever exercised is based on local control and is, after all, subject to local modification—at least, when it is run at its best.

May I now put the administrative side of this case to your Lordships? I was most grateful to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Rochester for his clarification to the House on the subject of controlled schools, and I ask your Lordships to forgive me if, just for a moment, I stretch your Lordships' patience by following the right reverend Prelate on the present structure, so that we shall have no misunderstanding.

As your Lordships know, there are two main categories of school in the maintained system: "county" schools, established by the local education authority, and "voluntary" schools, established by voluntary bodies. But the voluntary schools are sub-divided into aided, controlled and special agreement schools, with different provisions about administration and religious instruction. In county and voluntary controlled schools the staple religious instruction continues to be nondenominational and is given in accordance with the agreed syllabus drawn up by representatives of the Churches, the teachers and the local education authorities, although in certain circumstances voluntary-controlled schools have power to provide denominational instruction on request. In the voluntary-aided and special agreement schools, religious instruction is under the control of the managers or governors and is normally given, as we know, on denominational lines.

The noble Viscount referred to the fact that the denominations were happy with the position in aided schools. But may I just say that it is within the knowledge of Her Majesty's Government that great efforts have to be made to-day by managers and governors of aided schools of all sorts, and Her Majesty's Government are appreciative of the responsibility and the care for those schools which these bodies continue to give.

In maintained schools, of course, safeguards are provided for parents who, for reasons of conscience, do not want their children to take part in the religious activities of the school. They may, if they wish, have their children excused from instruction and acts of worship. The protection of conscience extends also to parents who are not content merely to have their children excused from taking part in the religious instruction given by the school, but wish them to receive some other form of religious instruction. That is of course what so many noble Lords have referred to this evening. Under the proviso to Section 26 of the 1944 Act parents may arrange to have their children withdrawn, with the concurrence of the local education authority, to receive alternative religious instruction elsewhere, but of course it must be given outside the school. The reason for insisting that alternative religious education should be given outside the school is connected with the potential objections, on the one hand, to the using of county school premises for denominational purposes, and on the other hand to using premises provided by one Church for giving instruction in the beliefs of another. Such objections may arise, even in these days when people are striving toward ecumenical co-operation.

This rule admits of only one exception. That is in the case of a county secondary school which is so situated that arrangements cannot conveniently be made for the alternative religious instruction off the school premises. In these circumstances the alternative religious instruction may be made available on the school premises, again with the concurrence of the local education authority, but the cost of making the arrangements must, under the Act, be wholly met by the parents themselves.

I do not know whether it is generally known that this "right of entry" does not extend to primary schools. This is because the 1944 Act assumed that a child will attend a primary school near enough to home and church for it to be possible to receive denominational teaching, if required, at the local church. Secondary schools, on the other hand, may be located in compromise positions between two or more villages, and not really convenient for either. I would suggest to your Lordships that it is part of the basis of the noble Viscount's Question that the "right of entry" should extend to primary schools. I have tried to describe reasons why the Government believe that this would not necessarily forward the progress of religious education at the present time—bearing in mind, of course, that there is the right of withdrawal from—


My Lords, I am much obliged to the noble Lord for giving way. I should like to ask him whether he does not realise that if a child has to get a religious education other than at school, it means that that child has to spend more time after school hours in order to be given that religious education. That situation certainly prevails in regard to Jewish children and I am sure it does in regard to other children. Therefore it is really more practical, from the point of view of not straining a child's energy, to allow the child to be given some kind of religious education in the primary school itself.


My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for putting that point. He is, of course, referring to the school which is not near enough to the place where the child would be receiving the alternative religious education, so that the time when the child is withdrawn is not in fact a suitable or convenient moment for the alternative religious education to be given. I assume that the noble Lord was referring to that, and I agree that there is a point here which the noble Lord and the whole House, I believe, most certainly appreciate.


My Lords, I would not interrupt the noble Lord but for the fact that he has already been interrupted. He has drawn attention to the special provision that obtains in regard to primary schools. He has indicated that it is because the primary school is located near the home, but I would point out that throughout the country a different situation is now developing, the organisation of the first and middle schools. The middle schools are much larger entities than the old junior schools used to be, or indeed are at the present time. Children will be drawn from a very wide catchment area. I do not know whether the noble Lord can indicate whether any thought has been given to this because, regardless of any other consideration, it seems to me to introduce an element that has not existed at this age level heretofore.


My Lords, this is what I meant when I said that the noble Lord, Lord Janner, and the House are on to a point. Some middle schools of course can be designated primary, but I know that I am quibbling in saying that. Most can be designated secondary. I quite acknowledge that there is a point here.

The noble Lord, Lord Janner, intervened when I was just about to put to your Lordships this point, which many other noble Lords have put. In schools opportunities are increasingly being provided for all pupils to learn more about the various faiths represented in the school, both through teaching and through joint or observed acts of worship, all of which will help to promote the tolerance and understanding necessary among children of different faiths and cultural backgrounds. I am aware that in his speech the noble Viscount, Lord Monckton, made the point that what he wanted to see was, at its best, children having first of all a knowledge of their own religion, but also a knowledge of other religions. In a nutshell, I am saying that I agree with this objective; and that the religious education developments are aimed precisely at this objective. And I would ask the noble Viscount not to overestimate the percentage who wish to withdraw their children. I had an opportunity to visit schools in the middle of England with a high immigrant population, and was extremely interested, in talking to the teachers, to learn what percentage of children were in fact withdrawn. It was a great tribute to many of the teachers to find that so few were. I am speaking, of course, of schools with a high immigrant population.


My Lords, I must come back on that particular point. The reason why most of them do not withdraw from religious education which is not their own is because of the examinations they know that they will have to take.


My Lords, I do not know that I follow the noble Viscount on that point, so I will pass on, unless he wishes to take it up again.

In addition to what I have said, there are practical difficulties (to which the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Rochester drew attention) in the matter of reserve teachers; and the noble Lord, Lord Somers, drew attention in his general reservations to the financial burden that he would not wish to see fall upon local education authorities. Those voluntary schools which are required by their trust deed to provide a certain kind of denominational instruction would no doubt have some reservations about making their premises available for the propagation of other religious beliefs.

A similar difficulty should not of course arise in the case of county schools, but there would still be practical difficulties about making different forms of religious education available on request. In schools where several different faiths and sects were represented it would be administratively inconvenient, if not impossible, to arrange separate religious education for all the different faiths in a sector of education (we are talking this evening about primary schools) where often the size of schools alone requires that all teachers are asked to become involved in religious education. A limited provision for the larger schools might well lead to charges of discrimination which it might be difficult to refute.

Perhaps I might ask the noble Lord, Lord Janner, whether he understands that it is particularly in the light of those practical reservations that the suggestions which he made at the end of his speech must be considered, and I assure him they will be considered by my right honourable friend. The noble Viscount, Lord Monckton of Brenchley, asked Her Majesty's Government to take another look at that whole area of the 1944 Act.

May I rejoin that the two important reports which have been referred to this evening do just this. The first was published by the Social Morality Council, a body of influential men of all creeds who are united in concern for the moral and spiritual wellbeing of this country. Its president is Bishop B. C. Butler, the Roman Catholic Auxiliary Bishop of Westminster. Its vice-president is Lord Ritchie-Calder, and its executive committee includes two other Members of this House, the Lord Bishop of Durham and the reverend Lord Soper. They set up a working party which was equally broadly based, and it produced just a year ago a most valuable report on Religious and Moral Education in County Schools.

This report defined the aim of religious education as … to enable a boy or girl to have a proper understanding of what is meant by a religious approach to life", and it added: one of the results of religious education should be to create in boys and girls a more sensitive understanding of their own beliefs and of the beliefs by which others govern their lives". These words, I think the House would agree, are closely parallel to those that I quoted from the document which the noble Viscount kindly let me have before this debate, and indicate the same ultimate aim as that of the noble Viscount. The means recommended, however, are not separate instruction for those from different backgrounds, but "open" religious education in which all can take part together, as the report is careful to point out, in a spirit of respect for "the integrity and distinctiveness of each tradition".

Abount a month after that report from the Social Morality Council there appeared the equally important document known as The Fourth R; The Durham Report on Religious Education", prepared by an Anglican Commission, under the chairmanship of the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Durham. Perhaps the most significant point about this report is that, although it was produced by a purely Anglican body, it came to almost exactly the same basic conclusions as the more widely based S.M.C. working party: and that, I understand, without any collusion. The report defines the aim of religious education as being: to explore the place and significance of religion in human life and so to make a distinctive contribution to each pupil's search for a faith by which to live. Again, it recommends the "open" approach in which all can join, emphasising this by saying: The teacher is thus seeking rather to initiate his pupils into knowledge which he encourages them to explore and appreciate, than into a system of belief which he requires them to accept. In addition, a number of research projects are hard at work trying to produce practical help for the school and the individual teacher, and my own Department has just published a small pamphlet called, Prospects and Problems for Religious Education.

The noble Lord, Lord Garnsworthy, referred in his speech to the need for us not to be complacent, and only to accept a policy of no change if we are confident: that society to-day warrants that confidence. I hope that I may have said enough to indicate that, while Her Majesty's Government are deeply concerned about the issues which have been raised, and shire many of the ultimate objectives of the noble Viscount, Lord Monckton, it is none the less felt that the way forward does not lie so much with separate instruction for all those of different backgrounds but that the widest possible support (to which the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Rochester referred) may lie in the development of religious education along the lines envisaged by the two major reports to which I have just referred.


My Lords, I have no interest in the Social Morality Council, other than an educational interest. I wonder whether the noble Lord could confirm that they are shortly to issue another report covering religious education in primary schools particularly. It might be helpful to those of your Lordships' House who are interested in this subject if the noble Lord could confirm that. I am not in the habit of doing "commercials", and as I say I have no interest. But it strikes me that it may be helpful.


My Lords, I am sorry, the noble Lord has caught me out. I think he is right, but I cannot confirm it "off the cuff". I will certainly write to him.